Scientists in Canada have announced the discovery of a new species of dinosaur closely related to tyrannosaurus rex.
Thanatotheristes degrootorum (Greek for ‘reaper of death’) is Canada’s first newly found tyrannosaur species in 50 years, following the discovery of a daspletosaurus in 1970.
At roughly 79.5 million years old, thanatotheristes is 2.5 million years older than its closest relative and is thought to be the oldest of its kind to ever be found in North America.
Researchers at the University of Calgary were able to conclude that this is a new, distinct species by analyzing the unique features of fossil skull fragments.
“Thanatotheristes can be distinguished from all other tyrannosaurs by numerous characteristics of the skull, but the most prominent are vertical ridges that run the length of the upper jaw,” said Jared Voris, a University of Calgary PhD student, and lead author of the study.
Standing roughly 8 feet (2.4 metres) tall, the predator would have been an intimidating figure.
Like its tyrannosaur relatives, the carnivorous dinosaur had a long, deep snout, bumps on its skull and large steak knife-like teeth, measuring more than 7cm (2.7 inches) long.
John De Groot, a farmer and palaeontology enthusiast, found the fossil skull fragments while hiking near Hays, Alberta.
“The jawbone was an absolutely stunning find. We knew it was special because you could clearly see the fossilized teeth,” he said.
“This discovery is significant because it fills in a gap in our understanding of tyrannosaur evolution,” said Dr François Therrien, Curator of Dinosaur Palaeoecology at the Royal Tyrrell Museum.
"Thanatotheristes provides scientists with insights into the tyrannosaur family tree, and shows that tyrannosaurs from the Cretaceous of Alberta were more diverse than previously known."
The study about thanatos was published last month in the Cretaceous Research journal.